A PROJECT to get 2,500 homes in an area of Blackburn switched on to the internet has gone on-line.

Councillors have agreed to spend more than £100,000 of Single Regeneration Bid cash -- money provided to improve areas of Blackburn -- to help meet the cost of the Wired Up Community project in Whitebirk, Blackburn, launched yesterday.

The area was chosen earlier this year as one of six to become the country's first cluster of 'wired communities' which will be monitored to see what affect the internet has on people's lives once they have easy access to it.

Nationally, the Government will provide £10million in total for the 'Digital Brain' scheme, while another £5million will come from the national e-Learning Foundation.

Five local schools will also be involved in the project, as well as 2,500 of the 2,800 homes in the Whitebirk, Intack, Accrington Road, Audley and Delph areas.

The schools involved are Intack County Primary, in Whitebirk Road, St Antony's RC Primary, Shadsworth Road, St Thomas CE Primary, Newton Street, Queens Park High School, Shadsworth Road and Our Lady and St John RC High School, North Road.

Homes will get personal computers while schools will get laptop machines. The machines were displayed at the launch at Accrington Road Community Centre. All the computer hardware and software will be paid for, at an estimated cost of £1,000 each, but families and schools will have to pay the phone bills for connecting up to the Internet, although the Government intends to negotiate the lowest possible rates.

There will also be training and support for local people and teachers and a specially designed website will be created for participants to get access to learning and employment opportunities.

John Greenwood, 69, of Poole Street, said: "I think this is a great idea, even though I'm a computer novice. I've been coming to the training sessions and I'm looking forward to using the computer when I get it. I have relatives in Australia, so it will be really useful for e-mailing them."

Margaret Flannery, 65, of Peronne Crescent, said: "It's an absolutely fantastic idea. I'll use mine to send e-mails and to surf the web."

A firm called Digital Brain is opening its northern office on Blackburn's Greenbank technology park to create a special local website to allow pupils the opportunity to access tailored learning resources linked to the national curriculum and create their own files, websites and projects.

A spokesman for the partnership said: "It is hoped this project, which has the support of the Department for Education and Employment, will build a culture of lifelong learning and enhance home/school links with youngsters learning on line at home."

Anyone who wants a free computer should call 0808 0100 700 to register.